The Village News Columns: Sure Miss Bellport

Take a trip down memory lane with ex-Bellport residents as they remember growing up in the Village.


Sure Miss Bellport
by: Jo Ann McGrath

Otis House

In the late 1940s, when I was in high school in Amityville, our yacht club would have weekend sailing races with the yacht club in Bellport. It was a wonderful summer event and we sailors were put up overnight in the homes of our competitors. I fell in love with Bellport then.

In 1966, my husband, Tom, and I moved there and bought a house at 15 Otis Lane. The first people we met were the Park Lewis sisters who lived across the street on Thornhedge Road. Old-time residents of the community, they were doubly interesting because they grew an avocado tree from a pit and it occupied their dining room. They opened the second floor ceiling to accommodate its impressive height.

Another early friend was Dr. Willard (Budd) French who invited us to join the South Country Antiques Society which he formed a few years earlier. The group hosted a yearly show…two of which I ultimately chaired....for the benefit of the Brookhaven Memorial Hospital.

Budd had a sister, Elva Hale, who taught me how to make the mango chutney which she donated gallons of to the Fair, and other good causes.

As a fundraiser for the hospital, I put together a cookbook featuring dishes prepared by several of the husbands in our club. I called it The Kitchen Blade, a title thought up by my friend, the late Nancy Bird. Em Czaja, a local gifted artist who did much for the Village, illustrated it. Some of the recipes included came from Dennis Puleston, Fred Atwood, Al Rand, Phil Munson, Peter Paige and Joseph Nardi.

Sometime around then, my husband and I, along with John and Nancy Bird, Knute and Nancy Lee, Walter and Diane Roe and local dentist, Frank Bushfield and his wife, Dorothy, began a gourmet club which lasted only a year. The Roes divorced and Frank Bushfield became a widower. He and Diane then married. Small town happenings of note.

The Garden Club was another interest for me. I learned the art of flower arranging and I managed one of the club-sponsored House Tours for which I suggested a number of themes. I can’t remember very much about it except that I assigned the home of Jack and Kay Hart, located on the Peat Hole, for those who wanted to do Japanese type arrangements that incorporated water.

Bellport Lane residents Peggy Suydam and Margy Smith were two of the founding members of our amateur theater group, Playcrafters. I was chairman of the group one year and in 1970 I had a part in The Inquisitor. The following year I directed See How They Run, the cast of which included Peggy Suydam, and Bob Mullaney who lived on South Howell’s Point Road with his wife, Helen.

For about five years I worked as a reporter for the Long Island Advance which was and is published by the John Tuthill family…three or four generations of them. The longtime editor was Donald Moog. The proofreader was Agnes Macy. The fellow who developed the film for the photos i took was a curmudgeon named Bill LeMein.

We and our three grown children, Eva, Michael and Paige, left Bellport 31 years ago to buy a farm in Virginia so we could keep horses and raise llamas. I realize we've been gone a long time, but when I subscribed to your Bellport News, I was sad not to see any names of old members of the community I remember.

Considering that I am now 86, it shouldn’t have surprised me.


Jo Ann McGrathp.s. The photo is of me, the other is our old house at 15 Otis Lane.
Jo Ann McGrath





Sure Miss Bellport
by: Joe Centrone

I lived in Bellport for 50 years. There were only two grade schools no Jr high school and the High school was made of brick and wood. We would play baseball all day long do some fishing down by the dock stayed out late and our doors were never locked.

Everyone knew each other and if you needed anything there was always a neighbor there to lend a hand. The people were special everyone got along. I remember as a child seeing on TV the tension our country was facing the "Black and White" thing. This I found very strange because in Bellport the Blacks and the Whites got along. We would play with each other every day even eat at each others homes. There was no color if you lived in Bellport as I saw it. The 50's was a great time if you lived in Bellport.

We all got older and we went to high school. We call it the old school now because it burned down in 62 or 63. I remember that day well, it was a bright day school was almost out just about 15 more minutes and off we'd go. I remember the fire bell ringing and everyone was going though the drill but this was the real thing. I left through the southeast door and walked towards the bank across the street never looking back when I felt the heat and screams coming from behind me. Wow the school was on fire the Flames have already taken over the more than half the building the smoke was so black my friends couldn't get down the stairs to get out. The window at the end of the hall was nailed shut so no one could open the window they threw a trash can to break the glass and started to jump out. I remember a man Dr. Bell I believe that was his name pulling out the bushes and putting them under the window so it would break the kids fall. I was thinking that my parents would hear about the fire so I ran home. It seems to take only minutes two and a half miles away. It was a big story it was on the news for a few days. I still can smell that fire to this day.

As always everyone looked forward to the 4th of July fireworks down by the dock. I guess we were lucky someone lived in Bellport who owned a firework company.

There now was a new Bellport high school and we the kids in the school got to choose it's name. This was funny it was Bellport High School or Beaver Dam High School. The Beaver didn't make it. Now we finished high school some of us went to college and some went into the service to fight a war. No matter what path you had to take I'm sure everyone felt the same as me. I missed Bellport my home my friends and my family. I'll never forget my first day back from basic training I got into my 1968 Camaro driving about 50 on Station Road and a cop pulled me over. In my uniform he asked me where I was going so fast? I told him I just couldn't wait any longer to see if any of my friends were down by the bay. He smiled and told me to slow down and let me go.

After the service I stayed in Bellport and started a family got a job as a conductor on the LIRR worked for 30 years and retired. Now this should be good news but it wasn't. All our lives my wife and I said when I would retire we'd move to Florida the Sunshine State. Oh yea did I mention my wife and I dated since we were 14. Well we sold everything and moved to Florida. The weather is good and that's about it. We miss Bellport everyday! Now we can't afford to come back and this pains us even more. The reason I had to write this is maybe one day you can tell this story to someone who wants to leave Bellport, Stop them tell them to smell the Roses there isn't another place like it in the world.

I thank you for reading this I just had to tell someone for there isn't anyone here in Florida that would understand.

I live in Florida but my Home will always be Bellport.

Thank you and enjoy Bellport the best kept secret in the world.

Joe Centrone




Click here to send us a comment.



4/6/2018, Robert Maggio wrote...

Glad I found this page. The articles sure bring back memories of growing up in Bellport. We were friends with many of the people mentioned. I also attended Bellport through graduation in 1968 from the new high school. I left for military service, found a job and got married, but always returned every year to visit family. Bellport will always have a warm place in my heart.



10/10/2013, B.D. wrote...

I am one of the many (more recent) generations to grow up in Bellport. I recently became interested in getting to know the town I grew up in. Its history, events, the people I know who have been here for many years and more. I started on facebook then rummaged and read through I wanted to say I am truly touched by the commented left here and the people who write about their memories. I am part of the BHS Class of 2008. Finished college in Manhattan, then lived in Brooklyn and have been home in Bellport for about a month until I start another journey to move to San Francisco, CA.

I just wanted to share that though some generations may show that lack of respect and appreciation or just as more and more changes come about, there ARE many of us that will feel the same was as you all have about this amazing, little town. Bellport is always going to be home. It is true, (one person wrote) "No matter where you end up you carry it with you for the rest of your life"-- Rob Beddell and my other favorite take away from this page, "The loop around the dock" -- Martha Scott Phipps, is a tradition I hope to bring to my kids and theirs one day in the years to come.

Thank you all for sharing. Looking forward to read more.



3/29/2009, Jon Rant wrote...

I happened upon the "Sure Miss Bellport" postings when a classmate from BHS sent me a link to the site and the article about the fire that destroyed the old high school. Reading what other people had to say prompted me to add a few thoughts myself.

I lived my first 18 years in Bellport, leaving for college in California after I graduated in 1969 as a member of the first class to go all four years at the "new" high school. That trip to college turned into a 35-year stay on the West Coast, but I never could quite get Bellport out of my mind; the place always had a hold on me. Despite returning most years for summertime visits, I still felt estranged, as though I had lost something that might never truly be regained.

As fate would have it, my marriage of more than 30 years to a California woman ended in 2003. With my three children grown, I realized that-as much as I loved California-it was my family and relationships that had kept me there. They say that home is that place where, when you absolutely have to go there, they absolutely have to take you in. I decided that I needed to reconnect with my roots and my extended family still in and around Bellport, so I loaded up my big black Lincoln Towncar and headed east in early 2004.

I've now been living back in Bellport for five years, and can finally say I've regained much of the feeling about this place that I once feared could never be reclaimed. Thomas Wolfe once wrote that "you can never go home again;" I'm pleased to report that he was wrong. In many ways Bellport is the land that time forgot. While other surrounding towns have changed a great deal in the past half century, Bellport has retained its precious quaintness and remains a truly special place. The golf course, the bay, the beach, the white picket fences-they all evoke feelings that are unique and timeless.

Perhaps it takes leaving Bellport to truly appreciate Bellport. I should know....just as I see from the nostalgic comments of those who have left know all too well themselves. It's easy to dismiss such comments as the simple nostalgia that anyone might have for his or her hometown long abandoned, but I don't recall many other people waxing about their respective hometowns quite like those from Bellport do. It was heartwarming to realize that so many others feel the way I do.

The essence of "home" is a combination of place and state of mind. Bellport is both, and will always be so to me. One never knows about the future, and it's impossible to say if I will live here the rest of my life. But I know that wherever I go, this place will always be with me, and I shall always return to it in both body and spirit. Bellport forever, indeed.



3/22/2009, Kathy (Lockwood) LaLima wrote...

I was born and raised in Bellport. My family lived on General McLean Drive all our lives. I can still remember, when I walked to the village by myself. I would go to Bohack or Trotta's for my mom, to get a gallon of milk, bread, etc. The walk seemed so far at first. Through the years, I walked to the village many times. I can still remember the white gazebo next to Bohack and the Mobil station, the cannon down by the dock and the beautiful homes on Bellport Lane.

My father was in the Bellport Fire Dept, my brothers were in the junior fire department, and my sisters and I were in the Bellport Fire Department Band. The fire department picnics were the best. All my parents friends, were like parents to us. I fondly remember the Patanjos, Waytes, Hermus's, Arthurs, Waldrons, Bishops, Browns, Hassels, Reynolds, just to name a few. We were all one big family. We all attended Bellport schools with many friendships and memories made along the way. I remember the FIRST Bellport Day, the 75th Anniversary of the Fire Dept, July 4th Fireworks, Artists on the Lane, etc.

It was the best time of my life. Two of my sisters live in E Patchogue, 1 brother in Manhattan, 1 brother in Lake Grove, 1 brother in California and I now reside in South Carolina. Even though I left Long Island 4 years ago, Bellport is and always will be home to me. Thanks to this website, I get to see the Bellport I know, love and miss terribly.



11/9/2008, Dale Hawkins of Bellport wrote...

WOW!!! These names evoked such memories! Marguerite Petersen lived directly behind my house, Joe Centrone and his siblings, especially Maria--what laughs we had! Rich Terwilliger (Sneakers) and I still swap barbs every chance we get....but Laura Brown--I haven't seen her in eons. I knew her as LauraLee and our families were good friends. I recently read of her father's passing, and I hope that she will read this and know I am sending my deepest sympathy. And while I'm at it, please tell Mom I STILL regret not continuing my lessons!

I wonder if any lawmakers read this column. I have one full-time and FIVE part-time jobs and still barely make ends meet. Too many really wonderful people have been driven off the Island because of the cost of living. Sky-high taxes, a disregard for the land (take a close look at Mount Brookhaven, er, the Town Landfill), big business driving locals out of work......will we ever see Long Island rebound? Not without a huge effort and politicians who "get it."



7/2/2007, Laura Brown of Oregon wrote...

We moved away from Bellport 20 years ago to beautiful, wooded acreage in Oregon. What I miss about Bellport is that I could walk to everything. As a kid, I regularly wandered down North Howell's Point Road, crossed South Country Road and continued to the Bay. One time I came across masses of horseshoe crabs mating on the beach. Another time, I frantically painted a watercolor of the Bay as the sun was setting.

I liked to explore places that had wide open spaces, such as the Kreamer Street Elementary school field and (oddly enough) the cemetery. I longed for acreage during my entire childhood, with the hopes of acquiring a horse.

It was great to be able to walk to town, stop in the shops, go to the library and head on down to the Dock for fireworks, Easter sunrise services, skating on the Bay and looking at the boats. (My parents didn't get a sailboat until after I went to college.) A few times, I displayed watercolors with the Artists on the Lane, as a member of the South Bay Art Association.

I now have to drive into town if I want to take a walk on sidewalks. Civilization has slowly crept out our way in the past 20 years, but I don't see any sidewalks coming to our street in the near future. We do get to see the neighbors' horses, a view of mountains, lots of wildlife (including elk grazing on our grass) and plenty of trees.

I'm the daughter of Bill Brown, who used to be a volunteer fire department member. He and my mom really liked those dances. I remember submitting a buzzard drawing when the department was creating the logo. I don't remember if the drawing was used. My parents moved to Arkansas after being caretakers for the museum and recently, they moved near my sister and I in Oregon.

I don't miss the Long Island traffic, but sometimes I get nostalgic for white picket fences, sailboats and sidewalks.



10/24/2006, Richard Terwilliger of Bellport wrote...

I know exactly what Joe is talking about. We moved to Tennessee in 1988 to try something different. Although we were successful, there was no place like HOME! After 8 years we were able to return to Bellport. Long Island has its faults, but we missed it dearly and am glad to be back. Especially in Bellport.